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Sectionals start up in earnest for soccer and football -- we'll go over all the draws for our North Country teams. Plus, can Syracuse upset Clemson in Death Valley? And what should we expect from this year's version of Syracuse Orange hoops? All of that and we'll give away some Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazines!

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SU Football: The A.J. Long-Term Solution

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports


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You've got to be a little off to play quarterback. A.J. Long may have that something off, which makes him perfect for Syracuse.

For better or for worse, the most important position in football, maybe in all sports, is quarterback. There's just no getting around the fact that QBs touch the ball on every offensive snap -- save for the nearly extinct "wildcat" plays that still linger -- and they significantly alter plays, drives and games more so than the typical positional player.

And a freshman quarterback captures all of our imaginations even more so, for better or for worse. Plenty of potential at a power position. It doesn't always go well, but when it does, you have a couple to three years of anything-can-happen football.

Youthful but untested at quarterback can change the game, change programs.

Now, let's be real, A.J. Long, Syracuse current frosh at the helm, isn't exactly setting the world on fire. He didn't throw a touchdown pass against Wake Forest and he's yards-per-attempted pass sits below six. He was, however, efficient and got the job done last weekend. Bigger than that, he proved himself dynamic, again. With him under center, even with his inexperience and alleged shaky arm strength, you get the impression he'll do something good. You get the impression that he was made for this, whatever "this" is.

That's a quarterback, right?

"I don't give a damn about the situation or the score, hop on my back, fellas, we're winnin' this one."

It's Willie Beamen mixed with Paul Crewe with a little Jon "Mox" Moxon sprinkled in. The guy you'd probably hate but tolerate in high school because, although he may be a total jerk, he is a winner. We don't want to be friends with that guy in real life, we just want him leading our favorite team on the field. It takes a little something extra, a lot of something extra, to not just play QB but to take over QB.

Am I saying A.J. Long, he was in high school at this exact point last year, he who had his only start of his "career" come against the ACC's version of Little Sisters of the Poor, is that guy, any of the fictional qbs? The Man?

No, I'm not. Not yet anyway.

Long could completely fold up lawn-chair style this weekend in Death Valley and that could spiral into his losing the starting job down the line. In a few months from now we may have to Google "AJ Long" just to remember him. I mean, let's be real, the kid has a lot more ups and downs to go, a lot more growing to be done.

But I think we can realize this season is at a breaking point, if it already hasn't broke. Below .500 with a game at top-twenty-five Clemson? Sure, there's absolutely a possibility of six wins still out of this schedule for Syracuse. And while the red zone is still a disaster (19 scores allowed in 23 defensive attempts, 13 being touchdowns), as is the secondary, the Orange defense was probably a bigger reason for the domination of the Demon Deacons than the play of Long.The Tigers will be without key starters and the games after Saturday all will be somewhat to very winnable.

And yet, I think we're likely to see more Ls than Ws from here on out in 2014.

So why not get on board with A.J. Long?

He could be the reason to watch this year and very well could be the reason to believenext. Long to Steve Ishmael sounds pretty good, no? How about Long to Ishmael for the next two or three seasons? Sounds even better, right? Add in Ashton Broyld and any other of the running backs already in house and the offense may actually become less offensive to watch. There's a lot to like here.

So, what's the hold up?

Oh, maybe because of Terrel Hunt? He who led Syracuse to a bowl WIN last season and broke a bone in his leg this season attempting to make something out of the nothing that was the offense to that point? That complicates things, obviously. Hunt doesn't deserve to be put out to pasture just because he got hurt. And who's to say Syracuse wouldn't have looked great with him at the helm vs. Wake? It's a tricky situation, no question.

Still, I look to his diminished numbers and his relative lack of growth as reasons to believe he may very well have been demoted this year, at some point. His injury obviously paving the way for Long's debut, but maybe Wilson would have eventually taken over. Hunt's being out is unfortunate but it's hard not to think the writing wasn't already on the wall.

Now the cop-out answer to appease all involved is to let Hunt take the year to get healthy and then let him compete for the starting position next year. That makes things less complicated now and allows for a peaceful transition into spring ball.

But that solution, to me, becomes moot should Long somehow lead SU to six or more wins. Yes, Hunt did the same last year, but there's something different about Long. Hunt played quarterback, Long seems to be quarterback. The intangibles that you can't really quantify but you think you know when you see them. Those are on Long's side right now, for better or for worse for Syracuse, with a hunch it'll be more of the former than the latter.





SU Basketball: Carmelo Conundrum


Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports


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He's the most high-profile player to come out of Syracuse since...maybe ever. But Carmelo's legacy, and his personality, is such an oddity.

Carmelo AnthonyBall-Stopper.

Carmelo AnthonyHe'll never win a title.

Well, he certainly won a title here, didn't he? And when it comes to Carmelo, there's always The Championship.

That win over Kansas in New Orleans is what everyone around here will likely always remember when thinking of Carmelo Anthony. Memories refreshed on our mind's home page this week when the former fab frosh returned to The Hill. And yet, for practically everyone else, he remains one of the most criticized players playing basketball today.

Carmelo AnthonyMe-first player.

Carmelo Anthony: Not top ten! Is he even top twenty?

Be it ripping his style of ball or even going back to the whole "stop snitching" thing, that became, for a time, to him what "Whoop-De-Damn-Do" became to one Derrick Coleman. Anthony is a lightning rod of sorts, sometimes justified sometimes not so much.

Actually, Carmelo and Coleman remind me a lot of each other.

D.C. was also a winner at SU, flashing that brilliant smile every time his Orangemen got rolling in a big game. After leaving here, though, he became synonymous with what was wrong in sports back then. Paying off a season's worth of fines before the very first game all because he didn't want to wear suit coats or ties to games? He was that guy. Uncoachable? Chuck Daily seemed to think so at one point in time.

Here was one of the biggest stars in sports, straight out of Syracuse, acting in a way that made a lot of us cringe.


Credit: Sports Illustrated (Spoiler: San Diego didn't remember the '69 Jets)

Coleman has turned around his public image now, receiving a hero's welcome every time he sets foot in the Carrier Dome. Rightfully so, too. He was such a cornerstone of that era of Syracuse hoops -- no title, but a whole lot of winning. Plus, he has shown nothing but public love to the fans. He's become an unofficial mayor of SU hoops, bridging the past with the future; Jim Boeheim then to Jim Boeheim now.

He's gone away, grown up and come back.

Melo's situation is a little fuzzier.

He's gone away and grown, but he's still away and he's still growing. He's taken heat for things like his "free agency drama" this past summer and at the same time is beloved for something like donating $3 million back to Syracuse University -- helping fund a practice facility/recruiting edge!

That's some legacy, right? A national championship in 2003 and now a gift that seems to keep on giving in a form of a modern practice facility/recruiting edge. One-and-done? Maybe technically speaking for Carmelo and Syracuse University, but not so much for fans who will always be ready to cheer the now-New York Knick.

Still, watching Melo go to battle with another mostly forgettable collection of teammates on Tuesday night at the Dome, it struck me: Carmelo Anthony: Syracuse Star and Carmelo Anthony: NBA Star just will never mesh. There will always be something a little off about him and his ways on and off the court to the general public.

There's nothing wrong with that, obviously. Melo's done enough to warrant the extra unwanted labels. And at the same time, for what it's worth, he's made over $135 million playing hoops and has been pretty successful off the court, too. He could retire right now and still have left a pretty big mark on the game of basketball.

It's just a different mark than I expected it to be.

The biggest star to come out of Syracuse since Derrick Coleman (maybe?), one that's definitely lived up to the hype more so than DC ever did. But one that hasn't fully caught the public's imagination, similar to Coleman.

It's all kind of...strange to watch play out.

Anthony will have the money and the accolades, not likely a championship, but he'll end up with more critics than apologists.

There'll be the good and certainly the bad...and...

The Knicks will stink again!

He'll have the haters


 We.Back. Minimize

We're back, everyone!

After a little more than two years away, Matt Mc's Sports Fix is rebooting and is ready to bring you coverage of North Country sports. In fact, we are here to be your source for Frontier League sports, Watertown Red and Black and Rams coverage, and, of course, Syracuse Orange discussion.

Also, each morning Fox Sports 1410 will air North Country ScoreCenters: I'll have updates on what happened on the courts and fields locally and a preview for what's on tap tonight.

And then there's the Sports Fix - airing Friday mornings from 7 to 9. We will put a two-hour spotlight on the players, coaches and media that make up North Country sports. Plus, as always, I'll mix in a few opinions and we may even break news every now and again, too. But above all, the Sports Fix is here for you, so let us know your thoughts via email: and Twitter: @matthewmcclusky!

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